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  • Writer's pictureEmily Marcella

Build an Emotional Connection | Evaluating Emotion to Strategically Plan Your Brand Photography

You’re ready to have your very own brand photography done for your creative small business. Excellent news!

This is an exciting step and something you’ve known you needed to do and now you’re ready!

So now you’re asking yourself - “how do I plan my personal brand photos?”

A very valid yet daunting question.

Your mind probably raced to what should I wear? Which of my favorite coffee mugs am I going to use? Definitely need to incorporate my worn-out…err…vintage college sweatshirt! I post iced-coffee memes every day and need to take photos in the cutest coffee shop I can find.

Believe it or not, this is all very rational thinking during the planning process. You’re thinking of the location, what you’ll wear, and what will be included in your photos.

I totally understand that you want your favorite mug to be in the photos.

But do you understand why you want your favorite mug to be in the photos?

For real, why do you want that particular coffee mug to be in your photos? Or any favorite item for that matter?

Allow me to give a personal example - I am a HUGE fan of The Office. Inevitably I watch it once a day, quote the show, listen to podcasts about the show, etc. There’s even décor in my own office of The Office. Office-ception.

HOWEVER you won’t find direct references to the show in my brand. Maybe the occasional reference in an Instagram caption but captions are a lawless land 😉

Instead, I want to convey to my audience what The Office makes me feel – comfortable, approachable, and friendly – and that they’ll feel the same when working with me.

So let’s go back to the coffee mug. How does that coffee mug make you feel? Here are some possibilities:

  1. Energetic – by drinking coffee I have a high-level of energy to do my best work

  2. Warm – holding this coffee mug when it’s full of hot coffee makes me feel all warm and cozy inside

  3. Organized – seeing ‘chaos coordinator fueled by caffeine’ on the side of mug reminds me I can tackle any situation with a good sense of humor

On the flip side, maybe you believe it needs to be included because you use it every day and that’s just something you believe your audience needs to know.

Nice try but no dice.

Let’s start fresh, from the very beginning…

You’re ready to have your very own brand photography done for your creative small business. Excellent news!

This is an exciting step and something you’ve known you needed to do and now you’re ready!

So now you’re asking yourself … “how do I want my ideal client to feel about my brand when they see my photos?”

Look at you figuring out the greater purpose of brand photos. I’m so proud of you!

One very important question I ask my clients during the planning phase:

What are three emotions you want your brand to evoke?

These three emotions are a good foundation to begin planning brand photography. There’s a whole science around emotional branding and I found myself going deeper into a rabbit hole learning about it.

One fact that stood out – 50% of a brand experience is based on emotion – as reported by CleverTap and cited with an article from Harvard Business Review.

I’m going to say it again in case you’re skimming:

50% of a brand experience is based on emotion

Without building any case or adding in supporting facts, I’m going to leave that as is.

So when I say I want my brand to be perceived as friendly, approachable, and comfortable, that’s because I genuinely want my clients to feel that way when they think about Emily Marcella for Creative Brands.

What are the three emotions you want your ideal clients to feel?




An Exercise to Develop Your Emotional Branding

Before we move on, let’s try a little exercise.

Write down each emotion you selected. Then create a list of items that make you feel that way under each word.

Here’s a template to get you started:

1. Emotion 1:




2. Emotion 2:




3. Emotion 3:




As an example, I want my clients to feel comfortable working with me. If I were to do this exercise, then my list would look like this:

1. Emotion 1: Comfortable

a. Casually sitting on a couch catching up with a friend

b. Wrapped up in a blanket and a good book in hand

c. Candle burning, fresh cookies made, and open windows with cool air

Can you see a theme beginning to build? It would be emotionally on-brand for me to take photos in a home-setting where my clients may envision themselves feeling comfortable. It’s also in the realm of reality that I would perform my photography services in someone’s home.

I encourage you to explore the emotions you listed. You can only benefit from giving this exercise a try!

Creating Emotion from Location, Attire, and Props in Branding Photos

Once you’ve settled on the top-priority emotions you want your photos to evoke, it’s time to look at how to make that possible with the use of location, attire, and props.

Selecting a Location for Your Brand Photos

Location can absolutely influence the emotions you portray in your photos. It sets the mood, if you will.

When considering a location for your brand photos, take these factors into account and ask yourself:

  • Initial Impression – how do I feel when I first look at this space?

  • Light – does the existing light (natural or artificial) in the space align with the emotion I’m trying to create? Your photographer can absolutely help you with this one. Light is critical.

  • Spaces – do the spaces within this location align with my photo goals? Will the existing features and furniture aid in creating the appropriate emotions?

Finding the right setting for your photos will be a big step in evoking your desired brand emotions.

What Should I Wear for Personal Branding Portraits

By far the easiest of the three topics to influence emotion. Think about it – you yourself exude emotion and now your attire can complement how you show up.

  • Style - Deciding on your style is imperative for conveying emotion. Dressing in a pantsuit or a sweatsuit will portray two completely different emotions. Think about how your industry dresses, what your ideal client would find appropriate, and then develop your own ideas for your style.

  • Colors – Start by looking at your brand colors. Assuming they align with the emotions you want to evoke, take some time to dig into color psychology. Color has a big impact on our emotions. From there you can decide what and how much of your brand colors you’ll want to wear, what neutrals or colors you’ll want to incorporate, and where you may want to pop in colors to influence emotion.

  • Texture & Fit – Textures like smooth leather, refined silks, plush sherpa, and soft cottons all present different emotions. Personally, when I think of comfort, a knitted blanket comes to mind. Thus, I wore a knitted oversized sweater to subtly convey approachable comfort. Playing with texture and fit in your brand outfits can influence what your ideal client emotionally perceives.

The best part? You have options when it comes to clothing. Incorporate all three emotions into one outfit and only focus on a single emotion in another. There’s flexibility when it comes to planning outfits for your brand photos.

What Props Should You Include in Your Brand Photos

Here we are again – what mug are you going to choose?!

Trick question. It’s not about the mug. It was never about the mug.

Brand photography props were saved for last because while they do help convey emotion, props will be largely influenced by the themes and storylines illustrated in your brand photos.

Like attire, however, they can influence emotion based off of their style and characteristics.

A very simple example but something any business owner can understand – pens.

Odds are the pens you write with are not pretty. They’re not your brand colors. They likely have someone else’s logo on them.

Making the slightest upgrade to a solid color pen with no logo can transform an image.

Let’s dive into a bigger example - let’s say you’re a wedding florist who wants their clients to feel a sense of whimsy, joy, and romance. The goal is to show you crafting your stunning arrangements.

Do we show all of your flowers pre-processed in the cardboard boxes they were shipped in? Not likely.

Last time I looked in my garage, there’s nothing whimsical, joyful, or romantic about a pile of cardboard boxes.

Instead, let’s show you in a studio surrounded by pre-arranged flowers already processed in lovely galvanized metal buckets. Now we see you as the creator of whimsy and joy with the essence of romance in your photos.

When you’re considering props, here are 5 tips to make sure props help with emotional branding:

  1. Minimize distractions by hiding logos, removing stickers, and covering up blemishes like scratches or dents.

  2. Use appropriate color, texture, and style to match the desired emotion.

  3. Props should complement the scene not be the focus. For example if you’re incorporating a decorative plant, then check to see that it’s proportionately the right size, healthy, and looks like it would occur in the scene.

  4. Find a balance in how many props you use. Too many creates a feeling of chaos and too few leaves you with a feeling of lack.

  5. Props should be a supporting visual to communicate the desired themes and storylines – not a secondary character. Huge harry potter fan? Let’s not bring in your Dumbledore bobble head for funsies. It will stunt the longevity of your brand photos and limit the versatility.

Props are necessary to your brand photos. Being intentional when deciding what particular props to incorporate will benefit your emotional branding.

There’s More to Evoking Emotion in Brand Photography

This post only begins to scratch the surface on evoking emotion. Let’s solely focus on how we can bring in elements to shape the emotional brand. Later we’ll talk about how personal demeanor, posing, messaging, themes, etc. all influence emotions and impact planning personal brand photos.

To recap, keep these two questions in mind as you plan your location, attire, and props for brand photos:

  • When beginning to plan your brand photos, ask yourself: What are the three emotions I want my brand to evoke?

  • When thinking of each of these three emotions, what visuals, ideas, or items come to mind?

PS. In researching for this post, I found The Office Stare Machine and if you’re a fan it’s worth checking out.


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